Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Elizabeth Shippen Green, 1871-1954

A century ago, there were not many professional fields in which a woman was welcome to advance—
As high-profile as illustration was (at that time), it was a fair career choice for men and women. Howard Pyle's art classes at Drexel had a great deal of women in attendance, and many of those got strong illustration careers off the ground. Among those students—Jessie Wilcox-Smith, Violet Oakley, and Elizabeth Shippen Green.

Shippen Green's work has always been compelling to me. Her early work has something of a
"stained glass" quality to it—not that it is full of flat areas, like Harry Clarke's work, but it does have two features about it that are reminiscent of stained glass—the brilliant areas of clean color, and heavy blacks that separate them. (Watercolors over charcoal drawings) While her subjects are consistent with those of a score other active illustrators of the time, Shippen Green had a style that made her work readily identifiable, and nearly unique. I imagine it did not grant her the satisfaction she was looking for, for later in her career she strayed to be more mainstream, taking up opaque paints to produce work more in keeping with that of her contemporaries, and certainly more common in appearance. Most of her illustration work was done for Harper's Magazines, with whom she had an exclusive contract for twenty-three years, 1902-1924. Later she did occasional magazine covers and some book work as well.

Jim Vadeboncoeur Jr.'s Bio of ESG at Bud Plant

A terrific collection at Paul Giambarba's 100 Years of Illustration.

Something of a setback this last week, as my scanner is "no longer with us"... (These images were already "in the bank") I won't be long without one, but, please stand by...(Hum Girl from Ipanema in Bossa Nova beat...)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mermaids and Other Inhabitants of the Deep

2009, Dover Publications. Here is my latest collection on a theme, due out any day now—
There is an incredibly sensual draw that compels one towards mer-imagery. Take the things that modern psychology would say about water visuals, compound that with beckoning forms of scantily-clad maidens, and you have the major ingredients to lure many viewers into a painting....
The components lend themselves well to the tastes of the visual artist—The seascape is one of the most practiced and best-sold landscape subjects, while the nude-form is champion on many artistic levels. At some point in their career, almost every Golden-Age artist has done a mermaid. John William Waterhouse did a few, and he did some of the best-known and most revered. Howard Pyle's last (and unfinished) major work—sitting on the easel at the time of his death, was his mermaid. H.J. Ford, Rackham and Dulac did many of them, both color and line.

For quite some time I considered a collection of this material too narrow to attain, even though interest in the subject is great. Then I started collecting work for Andersen's Fairy Tales for an unrelated project. I began to find that almost every artist who would do Andersen's Tales, had a field day imagining "The Little Mermaid". I looked into tales like Undine, Peter Pan, and Midsummer Night's Dream, and uncovered more and more mer-imagery. I had some solid images that anchored the project tucked to the side, and marked up whatever I could find to be scanned. With a big hand from Christina at Dover, the layout came together, and I'm very pleased with the book. And then I found those images I had tucked away. Oh well... , that happens sometimes.

Top to bottom are some choice ones-

H. J. Ford from the Orange Fairy Book
Herbert Cole's Sphynx-like Mercreature
A rare Kelpie Illustration from Warwick Goble
A beautiful group of scales and tails by Walter Crane

Back soon—and good luck to all heading out to Gen Con (Gaming Convention) in Indianapolis in the next week or so. Looking forward to your reports.